Prototyping the future of video games with audience participation

April 8, 2012 in Games (F)

[] Manchester, United Kingdom - The Pickford Bros, developers of BAFTA nominated iOS game Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint, are releasing prototypes of brand new game concepts within their critically acclaimed puzzle game, and are asking players for feedback.

Players of Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint can now try out two new prototypes - fast paced jumping play-control experiment 'I Sent My Monkey To The Moon', and radically redesigned gravity-based game mode 'Squish' - both contained within the latest update, available for download from the App Store.

"This is the future of original game development!" gushed designer John Pickford. "We can try out new game concepts by presenting them to our audience, gauging reaction, soliciting feedback, and building anticipation for their eventual release," he continued, "and that's miles better than making games in private and only releasing them to the world once they're finished, which was what we had to do in the past."

Prototypes are available now to all players who've purchased the Skeleton Key within Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint. They are playable works-in-progress, cleverly making use of existing code and assets to avoid bloating the size of the download. Each prototype may then be developed into a new game mode within Blueprint, or a complete stand-alone game, or may even be abandoned altogether if the concept doesn't resonate with the audience.

"By making prototypes available the moment they're playable we're offering players an insight into how original games are designed, and how they change and evolve during development," added co-designer Ste Pickford, "and having players involved and engaged at this stage of the process allows them to give us feedback at the earliest opportunity, guiding and influencing the way the finished games turn out. We're not precious about our prototypes though - as game designers we regularly try out risky new ideas. If they don't work we'll abandon them, but if players respond positively then we'll know we're going in the right direction."

The Pickford Bros intend to turn Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint into an 'incubator' for new game concepts, making use of the painless update facility of Apple's App Store to regularly try out new ideas and game concepts, and give players a taste of new products ahead of release, similar to the way in which popular novels often include a teaser chapter from the next book in the series.

"A lot of indie developers are finding innovative ways to develop games with audience participation, from releasing games at the beta stage, like Minecraft, or following the 'fail fast and early' model of social games," continued Ste. "Our 'incubator' plan is to make Blueprint an essential product that's downloaded onto every gamer's iPhone or iPad, not just because it's a great game in itself, but because it offers players a unique opportunity to become involved in the design of future video games."

"Already we've had valuable feedback since the release of the first two prototypes," enthused John, "and we plan to update Blueprint again in the next few weeks with some great enhancements for both, inspired by the comments we've received. We see the prototypes as living, breathing, works in progress - games that are being developed in the public eye. Later in the year we plan to start prototyping one or two completely new concepts, which will appear first in Blueprint."

John Pickford explains the thinking behind "I Sent My Monkey To The Moon" on the Pickford Bros' blog and discusses "Squish" in more detail on the blog.

Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint was nominated in the Best Mobile & Handheld category of the prestigious 2012 BAFTA awards and was nominated for a Pocket Gamer 2012 Most Innovative Game award.The game also earned second place in the Puzzle Game category of the 2011 Best App Ever Awards, has been named one of the 100 Greatest Apps Of All Time by Tap! Magazine, was crowned App Madness Tournament Champion in September, received a Gold Medal award from Pocket Gamer, and has secured a Metacritic rating of 81.

Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint is published by Zee-3 as a universal app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch devices, and is available on the App Store as a free download.

Based in Manchester, United Kingdom. John and Ste Pickford have been working in the north of England as game designers and developers since the early 1980s. They first worked under the name The Pickford Bros when they went 'indie' in 2004, making small scale original games together for open platforms. Previously they worked at various studios on high profile console and home computer games. Magnetic Billiards is a registered trademark of The Pickford Bros, licensed to Zee 3 Limited. Copyright (C) 2012 Zee 3 Limited All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.


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